18 May 2017

Yes to protection, no to protectionism: at Made in Steel Arvedi, Benedetti, Gozzi and Pasini discuss about duties, innovation and required new skills

On its second day, Made in Steel hosted a unique debate with key Italian and International Steel players. In a packed Siderweb Conference Room, Mr. Giovanni Arvedi – CEO Arvedi Group,  Mr. Gianpietro Benedetti – President Danieli Group,  Mr. Antonio Gozzi – President  Federacciai and Mr. Giuseppe Pasini – Chairman Feralpi Group discussed some of the hottest issues in the industry.

Among the main topics: how Europe as a whole, rather than Italy alone, should implement more decisive measures to protect its member states from dumping practices.  But also  protectionism, and the short-term future of the European steel Industry; the vital need for innovation and new skills.

When it comes to unfair commercial practices «The tools Europe has developed over the last few years remain too weak» commented Mr. Antonio Gozzi, President of  Federacciai. What happened to the 5 hot coil producing countries, which were the object of a European Commission investigation is «“crystal clear” in terms of dumping policies. The European Union has already the needed tools, ie provisional duties. However,  the EU opted for not taking a final stance. The price of hot coils – added Mr. Gozzi – was affected, going down by 40-50 euros per ton». «Nobody is calling for duties nor for protective measures, but Europe should hurry up: Northern European deindustrialised countries for example are not affected by this issue», which is reducing companies’ profitability.  Currently we see a 150,00 dollars/ton gap between the United States and Europe and we know that «innovation always implies capitals».

«Nobody is envisaging market protectionism; it would be a shortsighted approach. However, we wish for a free and fair market» said Mr. Giovanni Arvedi, President of the Arvedi Group. Today «companies’ competitiveness is strongly related to their ability to swiftly meet market’s needs».  Internet has dramatically accelerated the speed of companies operating on the market. Two key words emerged from the debate: «energy and communication». «Steel is not going to disappear, despite what whistleblowers say»; according to Mr. Arvedi, however «volumes will move from Europe to Asia and Africa. Products will evolve, with steel products becoming lighter, more enduring, resistant and energy-absorbing». In the auto industry «steel will remain pivotal and will win the battle over aluminium, polymers and carbon fibres which are expensive to manufacture and hard to dispose of».

The process has already started, and we see innovation changing business models and working patterns. «Thanks to the digital transformation, the best steel companies will reduce their staff by 30-35%» said Mr. Gianpietro Benedetti, President of Danieli Group. Flexility and the ability to meet customers’ needs will now make the difference: «At Voestalpine Stahl Donawitz (in Austria, ndr) we have started a rod mill for special steel products and it takes 15 days from order to delivery».

Giuseppe Pasini, President of Feralpi Group, focused on the recent past of the iron and steel industry when he fought to defend the Italian steel and more generally the domestic manufacturing sector in his capacity as President of Federacciai. «I fought to make sure that the iron and steel industry remained in Italy. I would like policy makers to take a humbler approach, to consider  companies not just as objects that can be set up and shut down at will.  They should remember that the manufacturing sector is a major asset for Italy». And in fact Mr. Pasini believes that «investments in new high quality products and skills» are needed.  This will strengthen the link between «the professional world and the  world of schools and universities, learning from what Germany did in the past». Not only do we have new technologies but  «the way people work has equally  changed. Workers are increasingly more specialised». «Working patterns have also evolved. Companies that survived are those who were able to innovate».

On the second day of the event, Made in Steel recorded a further double digit increase on the number of participants: +18%. The major Steel Conference & Exhibition event in Southern Europe will close tomorrow May 19th.    

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